Sunday, May 27, 2007
Thank You For Not Provoking My Uncontrollable Lust
Lucien, a frequent commentator on RichardDawkins.net uses the amusing image above as his avatar. It is also available for purchase on a t-shirt at CafePress.com, and I am seriously thinking of buying a couple of them.
I thought about this when I was at my dentist's office on Thursday morning getting my teeth cleaned by a female dental hygienist. In some Muslim countries, the idea of a young woman being alone in a room with a man who is not her husband or relative is haram, and to have that same woman educated and working as a dental hygienist cleaning that man's teeth is even more unthinkable.
The hygienist, who has cleaned my teeth a number of times over the past couple of years, is a modestly attractive raven haired young lady, probably in her early to mid-twenties. And yet not once during any of these sessions did I have so much as a single fleeting sexual thought about her. I was thinking how absurd it is that fundamentalist Muslims consider it scandalous for men and women to interact in such a way, and how we often take this freedom here in America for granted.
The image of the two niqab wearing women and the message that accompanies it demonstrates in a funny but sad way the misogyny that prevails in fundamentalist Islam, where it is assumed that unless women are adequately covered the men will be helpless to restrain themselves in their presence. An extreme manifestation of this perverse form of thinking occurred in Saudi Arabia in March of 2002, when the Saudi religious police prevented some girls from fleeing a fire in their school during the night because they were not wearing proper Islamic dress.
When it comes to dress codes, I'm a libertarian. I disagreed when the French government several years ago changed its policy to ban female Muslim students from wearing headscarves in French schools. If Muslim girls want to wear a headscarf because it gives them a sense of modesty, then I say they should be allowed to do so. At the same time, it is even more offensive when conservative Muslim societies seek to punish women who do not want to abide by strict Islamic dress codes. It reinforces primitive chauvinistic attitudes that the women are to blame for the misbehavior of men and turns a simple public expression of friendship into something scandalous and immoral. By treating the interaction of men and women in the workplace and the public square in this way, some Muslim countries retard their development because such attitudes effectively make it impossible for women to participate in the work force.
Unfortunately, there is probably not a hell of a lot that those of us who are freedom lovers can do about it. The Muslim world is not a monolith, and in some countries the trend will drift towards stricter dress codes, while in others the pendulum will swing towards liberalization. Meanwhile, there is nothing to stop us from at least making fun of it!
Posted by Tommykey at 1:22 AM